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How to Season Steak

The first thing to know about seasoning steak is you don't have to make it complicated. Some of the world's finest steakhouses use nothing more than salt and pepper to season their expensive steaks.

How Do You Make a Steak Flavorful?

The best way to ensure flavorful steak is to buy a flavorful steak. Higher quality cuts like ribeye have more fat -- and thus more flavor -- than leaner cuts like sirloin.

If you want to add more flavor before you cook, you can season the steak with salt, apply a spice rub, or marinate the steak.

Can You Use a Rub or Marinade With Steak?

Yes, you can use a rub or a marinade with steak. If you plan to grill the steak, a rub is the best option for adding flavor. See below for rub recipes.

Steak that has been marinated has more surface moisture which causes it to cook slower over direct heat. You may have a hard time getting decent grill marks and surface browning on a marinated steak compared to one that is dry before cooking.

When Should You Season Steak?

The best time to season steak is to salt it between 1 and 24 hours before you cook. Use 1 teaspoon of kosher salt per pound, distributed evenly on both sides, and put the steak in the refrigerator, uncovered. Seasoning early allows the salt to work its way into the steak, and refrigerating removes moisture from the surface of the meat, so it will cook faster.

If you are using a spice rub, add it just before cooking. Coating the steak with a small amount of olive oil before applying the spice rub may help the rub stick a bit better.

You may have heard that you should take your steak out of the refrigerator before cooking and allow it to warm closer to room temperature. Experimentation has shown this doesn't really work. The steak doesn't actually get much warmer. There's no harm in taking it out, but if you forgot, don't worry about it.

What Spices Go Well With Steak?

Spices with strong flavors are the best matches for the deep flavor of steak.

Black pepper is the best spice for steak. It has strong flavor, and unlike other spices, won't burn when exposed to high heat. Most grill experts prefer fresh-cracked pepper which has a bolder flavor than the pre-ground variety.

Garlic is a good pairing with steak, adding a pungent flavor that stands up well to steak's strong flavor. Freshly minced garlic or garlic powder are both good options.

Herbs such as basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary are traditional pairings with steak, adding fragrance that enhances the entire eating experience. Dried herbs can be part of a rub. Fresh herbs can be cooked as part of a butter sauce to pour over your steak after grilling.

Ground spices such as cayenne pepper, coriander, and cumin have powerful flavors that match well with steak. These can be added to your spice rub and applied just before cooking. One drawback is they may burn on the surface of the meat.

Montreal-style steak seasoning is a blend based on traditional seasonings for smoked meat. It contains garlic, coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper flakes, dill seed, and salt.

How Much Should I Season My Steak?

A light dust is the best option for seasoning a steak. A heavy application of rub (especially if the rub contains ground spices) may cause the surface to burn. Another option is to add the seasoning after cooking, either directly or by creating a flavored butter to pour over the steak.

Steak Seasoning Recipes

Here are some ideas for seasoning your steak. If you're new to rub-making, we recommend following the original recipe first, then making alterations the next time based on the final flavor of the steak.

Ribeye Steak Seasoning

With flavorful ribeye steak, keep it simple. These measures would be enough for two steaks.

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper

Sirloin Steak Seasoning

This seasoning incorporates old and new world flavors, giving a boost of flavor to lean sirloin steak. It makes enough for two steaks.

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper

Tomahawk Steak Seasoning

Bold tomahawk steaks deserve a bold seasoning, and this rub fits the bill with ground pepper, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Up the cayenne pepper amount if you like a little more heat. Makes enough for two tomahawk steaks.

  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Filet Mignon Seasoning

Filet mignon is exceptionally tender but very lean and better with a bit of a flavor boost. This seasoning combines spicy chile de árbol, bold rosemary, and pungent lemon (along with classic salt and pepper).

  • 1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chile de árbol, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons kosher salt

Smoked Chili Ribeye Steaks

One of the benefits of the Traeger is the ability to switch from low and slow smoker to blazing hot grill. A sugary rub would likely burn if you exposed it to high heat right away. But with a slow smoke in the Traeger, then a quick finish over high heat, you can get the type of deep flavor that grilling alone wouldn't allow.

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

Grilled Sirloin Steaks With Mixed Peppercorns

A blend of freshly-cracked pepper brings a flavor roundtable to your steak dinner.

  • 1½ tablespoons Whole Peppercorn Blend, black, green, pink, red, white, etc.
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

Porterhouse Steak Seasoning

A porterhouse steak is a high-quality cut with plenty of marbled fat for delicious flavor. You don't need much seasoning, just the basics.

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1½ tablespoons cracked black pepper

Pre-made Steak Seasoning

To make cooking delicious steak easy for everyone, Traeger has developed pre-made steak seasoning blends. Our culinary team, experts, in-house Traeger kitchen chefs, and brand influencers created these flavorful blends with Traeger customers in mind.

Traeger Rub: Our ultra-versatile Traeger Rub features strong flavors like garlic, paprika, and chili pepper, along with herbaceous basil and oregano. A balanced rub with the power to stand up to the intense flavor of steak.

Beef Rub: Deep flavor from paprika and chili powder, along with a hint of sweetness from molasses. A hearty, down-home rub for the beefy flavor of steak.

Prime Rib Rub: Thick, prime cuts are a good match for this rub which stars the beef-friendly flavors of rosemary and garlic.

Coffee Rub: Deep flavor from coffee and cocoa pairs with traditional steak partners like garlic, paprika, and black pepper.